Coinciding with the inauguration of the new JW3 building in London, Outset England was delighted to support Decommissioned, a new work by internationally acclaimed British artist Catherine Yass. Interested in the psychological and formal properties of architecture and built environments and the possibility of film and photography to record time and space, the artist has produced a series of unique lightbox artworks, which are displayed around the building.
Catherine Yass photographed the former car showroom and dance studios that used to stand on the JW3 site once they had been decommissioned and emptied. The resulting large-format transparencies were placed around the demolition site – on diggers, under girders, in piles of glass and rubble – and then retrieved some weeks later, after they had been damaged scratched, ripped, and transformed by colour reactions on the emulsion. The images have been placed in the new building in light boxes and are in Yass’ words “small windows into a past and interior world illuminated by imagination and memory”.
The photographs, shown in seventeen small light boxes inserted directly into the walls, are spread throughout the building. Like small windows onto the previous world of the JW3 site, they bring its unseen history into the heart of the community and its new home. The light boxes are positioned at varying heights according to the space and audience: images in the nursery are low enough for a small child to see; those in the toilet are hand basin level. The photographs can be found on journeys through the building like unexpected memories that surface and then recede once the viewer moves on.
Catherine Yass states in an interview: “I used to live near the site, so I was familiar with the buildings that the JW3 replaces. They were nothing special but the dance teacher at my school worked from the dance studio in the buildings – as did Margot Fonteyn and Hot Pants at various times. As kids we watched the Alan Day Car Showrooms on the ground floor spread up the hill to occupy the whole group of buildings. So they were a part of my and many other people’s experience of growing up in the area. In making the work, I wanted to bridge the gap between the old and new buildings as a way of giving the community continuity. A community shares a history so I wanted to make that history present in the new building. The sense of a legacy is particularly poignant in view of the fact that a large part of the Jewish community from this area escaped Germany during the war. It’ll be great if JW3 can be a forum for debate and culture that is both particular to Jewish experience and allows it to reach outside itself to link with other cultural traditions. Hopefully it will be a rich addition to London’s multi-cultural society.”